NORTH East Worcestershire Ravens showed their growing strength and confidence by giving high-flying Leamington Royals a real test before falling to defeat on Saturday.
Playing their final away game of the regular Midlands Premier Division season, Ravens went down 54-30, but felt there were huge positives to take from the performance.
Ravens’ work in rebuilding their player base meant they fielded a 19-man squad, including the senior debut of former U16s and Midlands player James Harborne.
Leamington, who began the day third in the table, began brightly to lead 24-0 with four converted tries after 20 minutes but Ravens refused to lie down.
A great break and try from Richard Whitehouse, converted by Dave Wimbury, sparked a growing confidence and Wimbury was fouled in the process of scoring to result in an additional penalty and eight-point try.
With the last play of the first half, Harbourne linked up with former youth team-mate Jack Griffin-Parry to touch down and leave Ravens trailing 30-18 at half time.
Whitehouse scored his second try, converted by Wimbury, to cut the gap to six points seven minutes into the second period but the Royals showed why they are top three contenders to add two more tries and take a firm grip on the game.
Ravens, however, were not finished. In the final ten minutes, a series of penalties and strong running gave them great field position and captain Dave Swaysland kicked through for Harborne to dive on the ball next to the post and Wimbury easily converted.
A 77th-minute converted try gave the Royals their final score but they knew they had been in a game.
Ravens end the season with two home games, the first of which is against Leicester Storm on Saturday at Hopwood Park.